Well, I took the plunge. After debating for months about upgrading the recording equipment in my office (I even wrote a post about upgrading few weeks ago) I’ve finished my 2022 office upgrade project. A few folks have asked what I’ve bought and why I’ve bought it so this post is my attempt to explain just that.
Why upgrade my home office studio?
The first question I want to answer is why I even bothered taking on this project in the first place. I am normally a minimalist and avoid extra equipment. As much as I would like to keep that ideal as a permanent fixture in my work it just doesn’t cut it for everything.
When I first went fully remote in 2013 I realized that the built-in camera and mic on my laptop wasn’t going to cut it. On many teams I’ve been a part of I was the only remote person on the team and I still had to join meetings with stakeholders that were, at best, skeptical of remote work. I was determined to make sure my tech wasn’t going to confirm their bias so I bought a Blue Yeti mic and a Logitech C920 (the specific version is no longer available) and it really did work well for the task at hand, so much so that, over the last 9 years, I’ve gone through two Blue mics and 2 Logitech webcams after the originals started having issues.
Today my needs are a bit different. I still participate in hours of daily work meetings but I also record a lot of podcasts, presentation and demos for both my daily work and my WordPress work. The Yeti and my camera are, at best, OK but just weren’t keeping up with modern equipment.
From podcast hosts complaining about audio or grainy video issues to well-meaning video attendees who asked me if I had recovered from a serious illness due to my appearance in poor lighting, it was time to update.
I consume very little video myself, but that doesn’t mean others do the same. I’ve wanted to jump in to incorporating some video into this site for a while but the issues others were seeing in my equipment, especially the bad lighting and video, meant I wouldn’t be able to do so at the quality level I would prefer.
I’ve been eyeing the difference good equipment can make since back in 2018 when I visited my friend Fr. Roderick’s studio back in 2018. When I talked to another friend, Matt Medeiros, about contributing to a podcast last month (if you’re reading this, Matt, I’m going to get caught up on that) I knew it was time to take the plunge.
What I installed
Thankfully I’ve taken this week off so, after ordering what I needed last week, I spent 5 days upgrading almost my entire office. While part of the upgrade included some furniture and the layout, the following list focuses on the 3 areas I started the project for in the first place, improved audio, improved video and better lighting. Here’s what I went with:
Shure SM7B This is basically the king of podcasting mics and a huge upgrade from my Blue Yeti. I picked it based on the recommendations of numerous friends I trust and, while I haven’t had a chance to record much yet, in testing it I can tell the difference.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (third generation) The Shure mic doesn’t plug directly into a computer like the Blue mic did. Instead it plugs into this box which then forwards the signal to the computer for processing. I had strongly debated going with the Rodecaster Pro here but it seemed to be overkill for my needs and the Scarlett should do just fine.
Cloudlifter CL-1 The Scarlett is great for most mics but the Shure is very gain-heavy. This means it needs a bit more power than the Scarlett can provide and that’s where the CL-1 comes in. It sits between the mic and the Scarlett to boost the signal which ensures I can pick up my voice fine while avoiding background noise and other polution.
Samson MBA48 I have a rather large desk which necessitated a long and sturdy boom arm for the heavy Shure mic. This is the first time since I’ve had an external mic that I’ve had a boom that reaches exactly where I want it and that is already kind of nice.
Donner Acoustic Foam Panels One of the complaints I’ve heard about audio in the past is echo. A few people have suggested the office itself could be part of the problem. I’ve put these panels in various places around the office to try to help that. We’ll see how it goes.
Panasonic LUMIX G7 I wanted something better than a normal cam for more professional videos such as when I’m recording for conferences or meetups. While the LUMIX isn’t top of the line (most folks suggested Sony cams but they would’ve cost as much as all the equipment in this post combined) it should be perfectly capable of recording long videos without overheating and look great in doing so. The downside to the LUMIX line that many have pointed out to me is the autofocus isn’t great but, with a little patience, I don’t think that’s going to be a huge issue in my space.
Elgato Cam Link 4K The Cam Link is what connects the camera to my computer so I can use it as a webcam. There’s nothing fancy about this little device. You plug the camera into it and you plug it into the computer and you’re done.
Logitech BRIO The LUMIX will be great for professional videos but is a bit overkill for day-to-day streaming. As my old C920 was having issues anyway I upgraded it to the BRIO. It’s easy to tell the quality difference already! The LUMIX will still produce better video but this is one powerful little camera.
Elgato Key Light (x2) These are pretty high-end lights that, I hope, will help ensure I don’t look horrible on video. I can control them from the computer and they can light up a lot of space when I need them to.
Is this all of it?
So will this help with my videos and podcast recordings? I sure hope so. As I write this I haven’t done a whole lot of testing nor have I settled on what software I need to go with all of it. In the past I’ve been a big fan of Rogue Amoeba‘s audio software and Camtasia for video but I want to experiment before I settle on anything this time. For now I’ve installed OBS Studio to experiment with all the equipment as I continue to decide what software will work best for me over the long haul.
In addition to software I know I’ll be experimenting both with the camera position as well as the lighting for a while yet. Many have suggested I’ll need a third light for behind me but I haven’t yet settled on what that might look like.
For now this is all a pretty comprehensive setup that’s going to require a lot of learning for me to get right. As I level up I’m sure some of the equipment will change but, for now, I feel like I have a pretty solid starting point that will look better and sound better and, at least for the moment, accomplishes everything I want it to.